Debut album Double Dare catapulted Waterparks into the public consciousness, landing the Houston trio lucrative slots supporting bands including Sleeping With Sirens and All Time Low. Choosing to release their second full-length, Entertainment, less than eighteen months later is a brave move, but it’s one that pays off.
Vocalist Awsten Knight’s autobiographical lyrics betray how much he’s had to deal with in the last year. Directly commenting on the band’s rise to fame in lead single Blonde, he admits, “I wanted privacy, routine and everything between”. This struggle explains why the mood fluctuates so rapidly from song to song.
The acerbic TANTRUM – heaviest song of the ten – clearly demonstrates the struggles experienced by Knight, guitarist Geoff Wigington and drummer Otto Wood. A female voice opens the song, stating, “Fuck these fuckboys bands that can’t think for themselves”. The band then launch into almost three minutes of thrashing rock, reminiscent of You Me At Six’s equally bitter Bite My Tongue. TANTRUM lives up to its name, Knight yelling, “People try to use my friends to get to me? Fuck you!”.
Unfortunately, it’s impossible to avoid the elephant in the room, and her name is Ciara Hanna. Knight and Hanna’s relationship ended in November, revealed to the public through some rather explosive social media posts. She was the inspiration behind most of the songs on Double Dare, and – as Entertainment was written before split – she’s at the centre of this album, too.
At points, it’s like reading a private diary. Their relationship plays out throughout the songs, with opener 11:11 repeatedly enthusing “You got me feeling like a walking love song” and closer Sleep Alone promising, “You can call me on the phone, I’ll run to you.”
Acoustic track Lucky People is particularly personal. “Happy birthday, Merry Christmas/To the one I call my missus”, croons Knight, after stating that he wants them to “keep each other safe from the world”. Slowing the song down for the final chorus hints towards the inevitability of their break-up, ending the otherwise cheerful tune on a melancholy note.
However, despite the abundance of love songs, they aren’t all sugary-sweet. “Your momma likes me, and she doesn’t like anyone”, Knight gushes at the start of The 1975-esque We Need To Talk, before waiting until the end of the song to say, “Fuck the 100” (a show on The CW of which Hanna’s ex, Richard Harmon, is a cast member). While Double Dare’s title was a Nickelodeon reference and a child-friendly collection of songs, Entertainment contains more f-bombs than all of their past releases put together. This is a pull-no-punches version of Waterparks.
The lyrical content is the most interesting aspect of the collection, but the musical choices are fascinating. Continually swinging from rock to pop, with aspects of indie and dance regularly laced throughout, it’s impossible to label Entertainment. Penultimate track Crybaby – presumably written with Melanie Martinez in mind – is the most intriguing, a haunting echo layered on top of Knight’s voice as he laments, “I don’t wanna be a crybaby” over and over.
Although Entertainment is a vast departure from their earlier material, there are still Easter eggs sprinkled throughout, linking back to their previous releases. “I used to, to crave a getaway” in Blonde revisits Knight “craving a getaway” in Crave. Meanwhile, Crybaby shows Knight asking, “Don’t you know that it’s Gloom Boy season?”, calling back to fan favourite Gloom Boy.
These clever lyrical links show the trio’s appreciation for the fans who have supported them from day one, but also make Entertainment the perfect place for a new listener to discover the band and their back catalogue. You can’t accuse Waterparks of selling out, because this album is as far from safe as you can get. It’s going to be interesting to see where the band go from here, because Entertainment is impossible to beat.